Nursery Reveal & Budget

I wrote about our nursery planning here and here, but I realized (5 months postpartum) that I never shared what our nursery currently looks like here.  I say “currently” because the space is constantly changing as our daughter’s needs change (or my whims change…).  Anyways, I wanted to decorate and furnish it on a very tight budget.  Having 13 nieces and nephews has been so helpful to us since we have seen how quickly kids outgrow things.  We just didn’t see the benefit in spending $1000 on a crib that was used for a short time.

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For more pictures of the nursery, you can see it in our Houzz feature or over at the D.C. Goodwill Fashionista (where I also blog about decor and thrifty finds).  I do want to share my full budget breakdown here though.  It is totally possible to furnish (and decorate) a nursery on a budget.  I relied heavily on used items, which I love for their affordability AND sustainability.  Having a baby greatly increases our carbon footprint so we try to be as green as possible.  In a world that tells us that our children need LOTS of shiny, plastic, expensive stuff, we’re trying our best to do our part to minimize the impact by purchasing mostly used or recycled items.

Budget Breakdown

  • Second-Hand Crib: $100
  • Mini Crib Mattress: $47
  • Mini Crib Sheet: $6
  • Second-Hand Changing Pad: $3
  • Changing Pad Cover: $9
  • Second-Hand Campaign-Style Dresser and Nightstand: $20
  • Second-Hand Canvas for DIY Art: $3
  • Second-Hand Bamboo Mirror: $5
  • Second-Hand Teal & White Storage Baskets: $6
  • Second-Hand Rocking Horse (painted blue): $5
  • Second-Hand Pink Basket for Blankets: $2
  • Chair & Ottoman for Feeding: $298
  • 2 Shelves & 4 Brackets (painted blue): $16
  • 2 Picture Ledges for Books: $20
  • Rug: $40 (on sale)

TOTAL: $580

My biggest expense was on a chair and ottoman, which I’ve recently taken out of the nursery and decided to use in my living room instead.  I still kept it in the budget though since it’s a fabulous place to nurse my little one!  Hopefully, this encourages anyone that is hoping to furnish or decorate for themselves on a budget OR trying to be more green in their decorating purchases.

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Upcycle: Winter Sweater into a Spring “Mommy and Me” Outfit


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I have two confessions.  1) I am totally pretending it’s spring outside by wearing spring clothing around my house.  It’s currently 15 degrees with the windchill.  2) I am OBSESSED with “mommy and me” matching outfits.  Why do either of these confessions matter?  In the grand scheme of life, they don’t.  However, in my own little DIY world they combined together to give me a great idea.  I was cleaning out my closet when I saw this sweater that I had purchased from Goodwill while I was pregnant.  It was one of the few things that fit around my massive bump!


Old Sweater (Ignore the poor quality photo… and the pose! haha)

I didn’t love it on me anymore and was about to put it in my “donate” pile when I got an idea.  I could turn it into a more spring appropriate top by making it a short-sleeve sweater.  Never one to waste material, I thought I would experiment a bit and attempt some baby clothing from the sleeves.  You guys… I’m loving the result.


I ended up chopping off the sleeves and using them to create tiny infant shorts and a matching infant bow!  I’m obsessed!  I love matching my little lady, and matching her for the price of an old, thrifted top is even better!


How cute are those tiny infant shorts?!  I paired it with a Baby Gap top that I purchased secondhand from Goodwill and some tiny baby shoes from Old Navy (found on clearance for $2.50).  Such a bargain!


The best part is that it was incredibly easy.  I’m by no means a skilled seamstress, and I was able to create the outfit quickly and easily.  Here’s how…


  1. I flipped the shirt inside out and folded it in half so that the sleeves were lined up on top of each other.  Then I put a pair of my daughter’s infant pants on top of the sleeves to use as a guide. 
  2. I cut around the pants, leaving an extra 3 cm at the crotch to provide seam allowance and a couple inches at the top so I could fold them down and add elastic.
  3. Separating the sleeves, I pinned them together where the two sides would meet to form the crotch.
  4. I sewed a straight line over the two pinned pieces, and then I sewed along the raw edges with a zig-zag stitch so it wouldn’t ravel.
  5. I measured some elastic for the waistband and folded down the waist and sewed along it.  I left about an inch open so I could feed the elastic into the waistband, sew it together, and then close the gap.  
  6. Turn the pants right side out and try them on.  This is where my big OOPS came… note that one leg is longer than the other.  I decided to turn them into shorts at this point since the sweater material almost looked like elegant boucle shorts.  To turn them into shorts, I simply measured for length, cut them, turned up the hem and sewed them shorter.

I decided to use the cut off portion to make a headband and matching flower.  This type of fabric flower is really simple so I just included this image to show the basic steps.


Whenever I am sorting through old clothing, I always create 3 piles: Keep. Donate. Toss/Craft.  I don’t donate items that are stained or have holes so I instead process those items by removing any buttons, sequins, etc for future crafting and keeping the fabric for crafting (if it’s nice) or kitchen rags.  I’m so glad I do that now because I found 3 buttons in my sewing box that were processed off of an old skirt that I loved.  I added one button onto the center of my flower and the other two to the infant shorts.



As for the sweater… turning a long sleeve top into a short sleeve top is simple.  After cutting off the sleeves, I zig-zagged the edges and flipped them up to form a cuff.  Then I sewed a straight line around the top of each cuff to create the “cuffed” sleeve look.



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Now, we have our own spring “Mommy and Me” outfit that barely took any time and re-used items that we already had on hand.  I can’t wait to try a few more upcycles for the spring and summer after cleaning out my closet!

The Look for Less: Bedside Sconces

After bringing home our daughter, my bedside table has become filled with STUFF.  I used to just keep my lamp, a book to read with a picture on top of it (to look all decorative and such), my phone, and a bottle of water on the table.  Honestly, those items filled up the table pretty completely.  Now, however, I keep: the lamp, water, a pacifier, my breast pump (keeping it real), a fan for white noise, a book (usually a “how to raise a baby” book), my phone, and a burp rag. It’s a mess, and I’m so sick of staring at it.  I decided to get rid of my bedside lamp, which takes up a lot of tabletop real estate and switch it out for a wall-mounted plug-in sconce.  Of course, I fell in love with a ridiculously priced wall sconce: $440 for 2 sconces.  That’s just not at all going to happen…

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I decided to go on a hunt for similar sconces that fit my budget better, as in less than $50 per sconce.  Being a somewhat frugal person, I felt guilty purchasing bedroom lighting when I already had functional lighting so I’ve been putting it off for a while.  I purchased my bedroom lamps more than 8 years ago (at the very beginning of the brass trend) while we were living in Japan, and I was sad to part with them.  In perfect timing, one of them randomly broke the other day, and I took it as a sign that I should get the wall sconces that I’ve been wanting.  I’m trying to decide between these favorites, which all happened to be from the same website because they’re pricing, free shipping, and free return policy won me over.


1, 2, 3, 4

They’re all very different in style (numbers 1&4 are more traditional, while 2 & 3 are more modern), and they are similar in price (they all cost $99.99 for TWO sconces, except #2 only costs $79.99).  I can’t decide which one to get, although I’m leaning towards the pure brass options, since the back wall of my bedroom is a very dark color already (number 4 might blend in too much).  Do you have a favorite or a different source with stellar options in my price range?

The Look for Less: Breakfast Nook

Long ago, I pinned this image and return to admire it frequently.  Since I don’t have my own breakfast nook to recreate this design (or the hundreds of others that inspire me), I thought it would be fun to begin writing a “Look for Less” feature monthly on how to recreate designer looks on a dime.  Of course, my preferred method of saving money is thrifting or buying items secondhand via Craigslist or similar sites, but I’ll stick to online stores so others can actually recreate the look if they wish.


The cost of an upholstered banquette bench can cost $1,000 easily, and a Saarinen tulip table is upwards of $3,000.  Due to the potential expense of this design, I thought it would be fun to recreate this full look (banquette/ bench, table, two chairs, and a rug) for under $1,000 with less expensive finds.  I came up with three similar designs at three separate price points.  I’d personally paint my own abstract art, but I included the original painting in my mock designs.

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I started by finding three very different banquettes at different price points.  I tend to like bright colors a bit too much, so of course I had to include the bright blue!  I’m always impressed when I see households with upholstered dining furniture that isn’t covered in stains.  I’m not that talented at keeping my sauces off of my furniture, so I personally prefer the washable leather-like finished of choices 1 and 2.

I’m a big fan of tulip tables, and I actually used to own the Docksta table from Ikea (#3).  In fact, I wrote a huge post about ways to hack the Docksta table.  However, I’m really enjoying these other options below, especially that shiny brass base!

I LOVE the look of clear acrylic chairs, but I’ve always been concerned about smudges on them.  Is that even a real concern? I picture myself wiping fingerprints off of them nonstop, but I probably wouldn’t mind wiping down any of these beauties.  The bentwood-style frame of #3 is a favorite of mine.

Now, I need to get a breakfast room to recreate this look on my own!  I hope you enjoyed my new feature, and let me know if there’s a design that you’d like to recreate for less!

How to Store Books in a Stylish Way

I’ve learned a lot of things as a new mom.  1. I’ve learned to always carry a change of clothes for the baby everywhere I go.  2. I’ve learned how to nurse while wearing the baby in a sling and walking through the city.  3. I’ve also learned that babies care A LOT about storing their books stylishly in their room.  You see, I have a large quantity of books that I’ve been storing in a basket in the nursery.  I read to my daughter everyday, but I’ve been too lazy to sort through the basket so I’ve been reading the same three books repeatedly.  Babies, specifically newborns, REALLY care about what books are being read to them.  I’m certain that my daughter Esme is tired of reading “Mickey Mouse and the Kitten-Sitters” for the hundredth time so I’ve decided I need a better way to store her books.  My ideas are limited in that there is no space in her nursery for a bookcase.  In fact, there is almost no floor space for anything additional at all.  Here are some of the ideas I’ve gathered as I’m planning out how I want to store them:

Idea #1:  Ikea Picture Ledge: $6.99 per shelf

I like the idea of being able to see many of the books at once.  No more repeating the same book over and over (until she’s old enough to make requests).  I also like that I can install these low to the ground so that one day my little Esme will be able to choose books on her own and take them from the shelf… although this could be a problem eventually too!  This option is also very affordable, and I love that it’s narrow enough to fit in the only empty space in our tiny nursery (behind the door).  This look could also be accomplished with spice racks ($3.99).


Idea #2: Folding Dish Rack ($19.99)

I like that this idea is less permanent (no screws in the wall) and that I can see the spines on all of the books.  That being said, it takes up substantial floor space, and I feel like it has a greater potential to become a disorganized mess.


Idea #3: DIY Book Slings

This idea is similar to the first one in that it is narrow and could easily fit behind the door in our nursery.  It’s also incredibly customizable with different fabrics to match a multitude of decor types.  It does, however, cover the majority of the front of each book.  I’d like the book covers to be viewable so that one day little Esme can find the fronts of her favorite books for us to read together.

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Idea #4: Acrylic Shelves ($9.50)

WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! This is by far my favorite idea.  I love all things acrylic and lucite so to find an acrylic book ledge is exciting.  These are narrow, allow us to see the full book cover, and modern.  I’m excited to install these, and perhaps most excited to stop reading the same three books over and over.


BONUS IDEA: DIY Book Ledge AND Dress-Up Station ($69.99)

As I was perusing Ikea’s website, I saw this plate shelf with cup hooks underneath it.  It’s a bit more than I want to spend, and it’s larger than the space I have available for the book storage, but HOW AMAZING OF A BOOK RACK/ DRESS-UP STATION WOULD THIS MAKE? I can just picture a multitude of dress-up costumes hanging from the cup hooks with a few books stored in the plate section.

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Alright, I’m off to go read to Esme.  I’m definitely going to attempt to read a different book today because no adult woman should have a Mickey Mouse book fully memorized… unless they really want to.


Decorating for Christmas with Salt Dough

One of the best parts about having a baby before the holidays is getting to create family traditions for the future.  In the past, my husband and I didn’t do much for Christmas.  Our tradition was to travel over the holidays.  This year, we decorated the trees (one for us and one for the baby) while listening to Christmas music, drinking hot chocolate, and eating sugar cookies.  Did the baby even notice or care?  Not really, but it was a blast for us.

One tradition that I wanted to begin was to make salt dough ornaments (recipe at the very bottom of the post) to commemorate our first Christmas as parents.  My family used to make them when I was little, but we added cinnamon to the dough for scent and didn’t paint them.

Salt Dough Ornaments

As a new mom, I wanted to get a keepsake to remember this first Christmas so I decided to imprint our daughter’s hands and feet onto the wet dough before baking.  Apparently, my husband didn’t get the memo that the dough was for ornaments NOT cookies.  I wish I had a picture of his face when I pressed our infant’s feet and hands into the cut dough.  He was quite relieved to discover no one would be eating the dough.


I made a mistake while combining my dough by not adding warm water.  I also should have kneaded my dough a bit better, as mine ended up rising in places in the oven.  We only had 3 cookie cutters (a circle, an oval, and a star) to cut out the dough, but I’d love to purchase a cookie cutter that looks like an ornament for future use.  I used a straw to poke holes for hanging in each ornament before baking them.  Mine were done in about an hour, although the time varies based on how thick your rolled dough is.


We painted each ornament with regular craft paint and sealed them with Mod Podge.  I used ribbon that I already had in my craft box to hang them.  Now, they’re on our daughter’s Christmas tree.  The best part?  These ornaments are kid friendly!  One of my friends came over with her toddler, and the toddler was instantly drawn to the Christmas tree and ornaments.  She enjoyed carrying a couple of these around the house, and we didn’t have to worry about them breaking and her getting hurt.  I also love that I have a memento of our first Christmas with our daughter.  How sweet is that little handprint and footprint?!


We didn’t just make ornaments with the dough.  We also made stocking labels.  My husband and I always fill a stocking for each other (mainly as an excuse to buy and eat candy in a “selfless” manner).  We both have white fur stockings, and it’s hard to tell whose is whose.  I painted a couple tiny stars with our first initials and added them to top of each stocking.  I love how they look hanging against the stocking.

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These ornaments are just so easy to personalize and extremely inexpensive to make.  These would be a great craft for teachers to do with students, especially since the dough doesn’t have to be baked.  You can also just set it out for a few days until it dries out.  I also thought they could make fabulous personalized gift tags to add to packages.  I’m curious if anyone has ever made coasters or a trivet out of the dough, as well.  Below I shared my recipe for the dough, which only makes a small batch.  Happy crafting!


Salt Dough Recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3/4 cup WARM water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Mix flour and salt well. Gradually add water, stirring with a large spoon. Finish mixing with hands. Knead until soft and pliable.

Roll out on floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets. With a toothpick make a hole in the top of the ornament for threading string. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) until hard, about 1 hour. Decorate with paint and varnish to preserve.

Gallery Wall on a Budget

I recently wrote a piece about how to create a gallery wall on a budget with thrifted items for DC Goodwill.  I’m clearly still thinking about gallery walls because I wanted to share this inexpensive idea to give you BIG STYLE on a small budget without relying on luck at a thrift store.  I adore the look of grid gallery walls.


They can be filled with simple black and white family images for a chic finish (above) or perhaps you might DIY some pressed plants in the frames (below).

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I also love the idea of cutting out images from magazines or books that you find inspiring to fill the frames.


You could even fill them with your children’s art, or you could DIY your own chic art.  The possibilities are really endless!


Finding chic frames at a good price is the difficult part (okay, and hanging them all straight), but that’s where I come in!  You guys, Dollar Tree has some fabulous frames for only $1 each!  I mentioned this before, and I’m really kind of sad that I don’t have a place to use this idea in my house because this is a FABULOUS way to showcase some of my favorite family photos.  Here are some of my favorite Dollar Tree frames that I really hope someone else can use:


This frame is HUGE (11″x14″) so you’d only need a few to make a big statement.  I’d personally order the case of 18 online and have them shipped (since my Dollar Tree rarely has many of the same frames in stock), but I’d hang them in a 4×4 grid on a big wall.  


 This frame comes in silver and gold, as well as in 3.5″x5″ and the 5″x7″ (shown).  I’m a big fan of brushed gold, so of course I love this finish.  I considered buying 2 cases of this frame for only $24 and hanging them in a huge 6×4 grid over a sofa.  I’d personally hang them horizontally, but that’s just my preference.  These would also look great with some plain abstract art in them.  


This textured frame is available in gold or silver, as well.  I haven’t seen this one in person (many Dollar Tree frames look cheap in person because, well, they are cheap), but I love the texture on this frame.  I can picture it in a bedroom to show off family pictures.

My least favorite thing about a gallery wall is hanging the frames, BUT I love that these are all lightweight (plastic) and glass-free (great for homes with kids).  I’ve hung many a gallery wall in the past 9 years (and I still struggle with hanging the frames), so here is my minimal advice to make it easier.

You’ll need:

  1. Picture hangers (I don’t like to use nails, although these frames are light enough that a nail would work) or command strips (for the renters out there)
  2. A measuring tape & pencil (to measure in between frames and mark the wall)
  3. A laser level (BEST. TOOL. EVER. for hanging frames)
  4. *Optional* Newspaper to cut out a tracing of your frames (mark where the hanger is on each newspaper too)

I used to always cut out a newspaper tracing of each frame and tape it to the wall prior to making any holes.  I’d use the laser level and measuring tape to help figure out the placements, and then I’d make my hole through the hung newspaper.  I’ve stopped doing that, not because it doesn’t work, but because I’ve stopped being as much of a perfectionist.

I’m still searching for a spot around my house to put a giant gallery wall of Dollar Tree frames.  Until I find my spot, I hope this is useful for others.

Living Room Built-ins on a Budget


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Our tiny city condo has been a work in progress since we moved in.  We’ve been updating it at a faster rate lately (although not necessarily blogging about it) since we just added a new member to our little family.  When I was 39 weeks pregnant and in a SERIOUS nesting craze, I demanded that we go to Ikea immediately because I NEEDED built-ins in our living room.  Specifically, I NEEDED them for this odd empty space near our sofa that is never really used.  I pictured it one day being our daughter’s play area, and she clearly needed storage for toys… and she needed me to get the area set up and ready IMMEDIATELY.


My husband was smart enough to know to just go with the flow at this point, and he obliged.  I had a few ideas in my head after finding some fabulous inspiration online.  Years ago, I had seen this Ikea hack on madebygirl to make this fabulous credenza.


I loved everything about it, except the price (and that the Akurum cabinet components are no longer available at Ikea).  I decided to research a few options before going to Ikea, specifically the new Sektion cabinets ($$$$), the Bestå series ($$$), the Eket cabinet ($$), and the best deal of all, the Fullen cabinet ($).  My frugal nature won, and I decided to use the Fullen cabinets since they cost only $9.99 per unit.  They are generally used as sink cabinets, which means they are also easy to anchor to the wall (a necessity for child safety).  The other options would have cost us anywhere from $200-$1200 (!!!) to create a similar look.


My original plan was to purchase either Birch Plywood or 2 pieces of common board (running side by side) for a budget-friendly countertop.  I LOVE the look of this plywood tabletop from  I also love the price and availability of plywood.  Remember, I was 39 weeks pregnant and NEEDED this project done immediately. 🙂


There was one drawback for the Fullen cabinets: they didn’t come in the right length we needed for the wall.  Our wall is 91″ long, and I was hoping to capitalize on the full length.  The Fullen cabinet is 23 5/8″ wide, so 3 of them would only be about 71″ long, while 4 cabinets would be too long at 94.5″ long.  I decided to just deal with the smaller size and purchased 3 of them.  These cabinets are SO easy to put together!  My 39 week pregnant self was able to do a lot of the building.

Ready for the best part?  The cream on top?  The cherry with cream on top?  Before we leave Ikea, I always stop by the “as-is” room to see if I can score any good deals.  My husband and I were looking through their cabinet scraps when I pulled out a long, shiny, white “board.”  And GUESS WHAT THE DIMENSIONS WERE…. 15″ (the width we needed for our cabinets) by 90″ (the length we needed for our wall).  It was fate.  It was also marked down to only $4.90.  SOLD.  When I got home I googled the “board” to discover that it is actually a cover panel for kitchen cabinets, and it’s normally $74.

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Remember how I mentioned that my wall was 91″, the 3 cabinets would only total to 71″, and the board was 90″?  Obviously, the dimensions were a tad off.  We considered cutting the board down to size, but we were unsure how it would look.  I decided to create a 19″ space between two of the cabinets as a work area.  It’s just the right size for a small chair.


Once it was all put together, I decided that I didn’t love the grey, plastic legs or the cheap, plastic knobs that came with it.  I purchased these legs and these knobs to make it feel a bit more expensive.  The legs are actually meant for chairs and sofas, so I had to purchase bolts to keep them in place.


I absolutely love how it has turned out.  It has given us so much more storage.  I wasn’t sure if we’d actually use a “work space,” but my husband and I both prefer sitting at this little desk to concentrate for work.  At this time, we’ve decided not to attach the top to the cabinets.  Eventually, we’ll attach it with construction adhesive, but since our little one is so tiny we didn’t feel the need.


Now, we’re considering what to do with the space above the “built-ins.”  We could add some art to the right of our Washington D.C. map print for balance, or we could build a wall of shelving above them.  We definitely need to do something with our plain, hollow-core doors, although that’s really just an aside.  I can’t help but look around and come up with new projects.  It’s my husband’s favorite thing about me. 🙂IMG_3382IMG_3384

I’m one of those weird people that take great pleasure in organizing my home.  If you also love organization, this next part is for you.  Specifically, look at the bottom shelf.

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You guys, Ikea makes a great organizing box (Kuggis) that fits PERFECTLY into this cabinet.  It holds SO MUCH.  I bought both the box and the organizing insert.  I actually emptied my ENTIRE buffet cabinet into that box (granted, my buffet cabinet was mainly holding office supplies).  Here’s another picture of the Kuggis box because organization is everything.


“Built-in” Budget

  • 3  Fullen Cabinets =$30
  • “As-is” Förbättra cover panel= $5
  • 3 Packages Landskroma Chair Legs= $30
  • Gold Knobs= $13
  • TOTAL: $78

Overall, these “built-ins” could have been accomplished for a grand total of $35 (had I not wanted to upgrade the legs and knobs).  Adding your own wood top to it might increase the price by $16, if you choose one of my bargain options from above.  I’m really happy with the end result for our home and needs.  It’s given us storage AND a work space that we didn’t even realize we wanted!IMG_3385